366 Jackson Street Suite 100 Saint Paul, Minnesota 55101

A Tipping Point in Mexico?

Yesterday, it was announced that for the first time ever known, a Catholic clergyman has been convicted of child sexual abuse in Mexico. Father Gerardo Silvestre Hernandez, a priest in the Archdiocese of Antequera Oaxaca, was sentenced to 16 years and 6 months in prison for plying child victims with alcohol, showing them pornographic films and then sexually abusing them. The National Catholic Reporter, reported Hernandez was arrested in 2013 and had been detained since then.

According to World Religion News, 81% of Mexican adults are Catholic and Mexico has the second highest number of Catholics in the world. How is it possible that the very first criminal prosecution for child sexual abuse in Mexico is occurring in 2017? It’s been hundreds of years since the Catholic Church began operating in Mexico and it’s been 15 years since the clergy abuse scandal exploded in Boston bringing international attention to the issue.  Is it because Mexico gives such strong deference to priests and the Catholic Church that no government official wants to prosecute? Is it because Mexico’s laws on child sexual abuse and sexual assault are so archaic that prosecuting these heinous crimes is next to impossible? Or could it be that prosecuting a priest is still taboo and no one wants to be the “bad guy” by bringing a cleric to justice?
One of the most prominent priests in the Catholic Church, Fr. Marciel Maciel, was a native of Mexico. He founded the Legionnaires of Christ in the mid-1940s and went on to become one of the highest ranking members of the Catholic Church to be accused of child sexual abuse. Where were the prosecutors when Maciel was abusing kids? Imagine how many innocent children were exposed to Maciel and likely suffered at the hands of this prolific child abuser.

As the clergy sexual abuse issue continues to garner attention in the United States, perhaps Mexican prosecutors can use this success as cornerstone for additional action.  Every prosecution makes the children of Mexico safer.  It should be viewed as a courageous act and the survivors and prosecutors who made it possible should be acknowledged for the heroes they are.  This case truly could be the tip of the sword and no longer are sexually abusive clerics allowed to act with impunity in Mexico.  Here in the U.S., we have a civil and criminal justice system in place so that citizens and children can be made safer.  The children of Mexico deserve the same.  Maybe now Mexico will pay attention to clergy sexual abuse and give it the proper time and attention it deserves.